Health, News, Press Release, Project News

Cataract Camps give thousands the gift of sight


Saves government over R100 million

THERE are currently nearly 300,000 people in South Africa in danger of going blind due to cataracts. And with Covid-19 causing delays in surgical procedures, this number could go up.

Also, with the private costs of a cataract operation today being as much as R22,000, many cannot afford it, and thus, are denied their vision.

Cataracts are the leading cause of blindness in South Africa, but with surgical intervention, are treatable. Cataracts occur when the eye lens becomes foggy, leading to blurry imaging, double vision, sudden nearsightedness and a gradual loss of sight.

Causes of cataracts vary from old age to diabetes, an excessive exposure to ultra-violet, smoking, alcohol, obesity and the overuse of steroidal medication.

Since 2005, the Islamic Medical Association of South Africa (IMASA) in conjunction with NGOs such as Awqaf SA Share the Care and others, have conducted Cataract Camps at various public hospitals where the operations are offered free of charge.

The initiative is designed to reduce National Health backlogs, and to restore the patient’s sight and dignity. Co-ordinator Hafiz Nadeem Ahmad says that to date, the project has completed 7,053 successful surgeries, saving the state over R100 million in costs.

“Any patient can come to us for the cataract operation. Whoever comes we serve. Generally, we utilise two theatres on weekends at state hospitals. Currently, we have a partnership with Gauteng Health. Two doctors will work over the weekend along with the nursing staff. These doctors can perform around 40-50 operations.

“Our success rate is almost 100%. The doctors we choose to do the surgeries are highly experienced, and the quality of their work excellent,” he explained.

“Last month (24-25 January), Awqaf SA Share the Care, IMASA, the Islamic Circle of Southern Africa (ICSA), Bliss Chemicals (MAQ), the Caring Women Forum and the Sultan Bahu Centre joined forces to oversee 40 patients – ranging from the ages of 38 to 88 – who were successfully operated on at Leratong Hospital on the West Rand in Gauteng,” said Ahmad.

He added that the next Cataract Camp would be taking place on 20-21 February at Leratong hospital, where the plan was to perform 50 surgeries.

“We want everyone to get involved in this project. There is a huge need. Ordinary citizens cannot afford private clinics. The backlog is exceedingly high in all public hospitals across the country. We are trying to play our role in reducing the pressure. There are over 35,000 patients waiting for cataract surgery in the Gauteng Province alone.

“We ask businesses and individuals to take part in this project. The cost of one operation for us is R2,000 (as opposed to R22,000). We can provide a gift of sight, free of charge, to one person for a donation of only R2,000,” he said.